Key Words: Why Chris Christie says fat jokes aren’t funny
“‘In this time where we are examining our sensitivity about what we say about people, it’s been extraordinary to me to watch (how) that applies to everything about a person except for the weight.’”
That was former New Jersey governor and one-time presidential candidate Chris Christie on CNN addressing the comments he’s faced about his obesity. The prominent Republican spoke to correspondent Dana Bash for a program, “Being…Chris Christie,” that aired Monday night.
Indeed, Christie has been the butt of many a fat joke over the years, with everyone from late-night talk-show hosts to everyday folks on social media making remarks. At times, Christie has participated in the joke — most notably, when he ate a doughnut while being interviewed by David Letterman in 2013.
But Christie, who has been making the media rounds while promoting his new book, “Republican Rescue: Saving the Party from Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden,” which is being released today, told CNN that it puzzles him how his weight overshadows so much else, and results in so much pointless ridicule.
“I could be talking about the Iran nuclear deal, and I’ll get a response from somebody on email or Twitter or Facebook or wherever saying, ‘You fat S.O.B.’…What’s that have to do with the Iran nuclear deal?” he said.
And he gave another example: “How could you be a leader? You can’t push yourself away from the dinner table.”
Christie also noted, in response to a question from Bash, that such comments wouldn’t be considered acceptable if the situation applied to someone with a disability.
Over the years, commentators have spoken about the issues surrounding the fat-shaming of Christie, voicing support for the idea that his weight shouldn’t be comic fodder or a means of insulting him, even among those who may disagree with Christie politically. The end result, observers often say, is that it makes such ridicule socially acceptable when it should be seen as hurtful and harmful.
“When we make…jokes about Christie, though, we’re not just attacking him personally,” said Paul Hartzer on The Good Men Project website. “We’re reinforcing social values about being overweight, and the collateral damage is anyone else struggling with their self-esteem due to their weight.”
Related: Chris Christie and me: The skinny on being fat
Christie has attempted to lose weight — most notably, when he had Lap Band surgery years ago. He told Bash that he’s “significantly less heavy” than he was prior to becoming governor of New Jersey in 2010. But he said he has more weight he wants to lose. Overall, Christie said, “I no longer feel desperate…I feel like my health is under control.”
Christie’s remarks come at a time when others have spoken about their struggles with weight — most notably, the British singer Adele. She said exercise was the key to her new, slimmer self. “It was never about losing weight, it was always about becoming strong and giving myself as much time every day without my phone,” she said. “I got quite addicted to it. I work out two or three times a day.”
In any case, Christie said he’s no longer bothered by remarks about his weight. “After a while, you just learn to deal with it,” he told Bash.